An interview can be both an exciting and daunting experience. It holds the promise of new beginnings but also the risk of rejection. Preparation for an interview begins ahead of looking through job adverts and hopefully ends with a job offer. These are the things to remember along the way.
Before Looking for a Job
Ahead of looking at job adverts, ask yourself these three questions:
- Why am I looking for a job?
- What field do I ideally want to work in?
- What career aspirations do I have?
Knowing the answer to these questions will help focus your job search. It will also assist you in how you write up your curriculum vitae (CV) and answer questions during an interview.
Consider working with a life coach during your search for a job. They can help you figure out what you actually want as well as potential pathways leading to your preferred career. During the application and interview process, they could provide encouragement. As well as assist you to practice for interviews.
How to Answer a Job Advert
There are two ways of finding out about a job vacancy. Word of mouth and via a job advert. Job adverts are released in a number of ways. They could be circulated via social media platforms (e.g.: Facebook or LinkedIn), posted on websites, published in newspapers or through recruitment agencies. Therefore, cover all your bases and look through all possible sources.
Once you find something you are interested in, look at the job requirements. See if and how they match to both your experience and qualifications. Also look at what the job entails. Can you picture yourself doing what’s outlined? Then look at what you need to do to apply for the job, the timeframes and how to apply.
Cover Letters and CVs
Prepare standard templates for both a covering letter and CV ahead of time. That way when you apply for a specific job, you tweak what you have to match the job specs or application format. This cuts down on the time it takes to apply. Which also means the process is less overwhelming and you’re more likely to apply for multiple jobs.
How to write a Cover Letter
Not all job adverts request a covering letter. If they don’t and it’s not an online questionnaire you fill in, then prepare a very brief covering letter. State what job you specifically applied for, that you believe you meet the requirements and appreciate them considering your application.
If they require a covering letter, then note what exactly they are asking for. If they don’t stipulate then look at the job requirements outlined in the advert. Then, after stating what job you are applying for, match your existing skill set and experience to their requirements. Be brief and specific about why you meet the job’s requirements.
How to Structure Your CV
Most industries have a format that they require your CV to be in. For example, some require you to include a photo, while others don’t. Your CV template should match the basic CV requirements of the industry. As well as the general format and length expected.
Usually, you start off with your current or last job and work backwards to your first one. List your experience gained, stating how long you were in a position and what your responsibilities were. You need to show that you match the job specs, but you don’t want to overwhelm them with information. Make sure your CV is an accurate reflection of your abilities and qualifications. And don’t pad your CV with irrelevant information. If they ask for references, check with the people you want to use ahead of listing them. If not, then put “reference available upon request”.
5 General Requirements of a CV
- Personal information: Such as your full name and contact information.
- Qualifications: Like your level of education, certifications and relevant courses.
- Basic Competencies: For example, Microsoft Word and Excel.
- Industry Specific Knowledge: For instance, programmers should state what languages they are proficient in.
- Skill Set: What soft and hard skills do you have? Soft skills are interpersonal traits, like leadership. Whereas hard skills would be something like presentation and project management skills. These need to be according to your experience and ideally, with a brief relevant example.
Nominations and awards can be included alongside your qualifications. Or alternatively, used to validate your skill set list.
Your CV needs to look neat, contain no spelling or grammatical errors and be easy to understand. It’s the first impression an interviewer has of you. So, the time spent making sure it’s a good one is well worth it.
When you send in your CV, include all the relevant documentation. Take note of how they state if and when they could communicate with you. Additionally, keep the job advert. This will remind you of what the job requires and help you should you be offered an interview.
Getting Ready for the Interview
An interview is a two-way process. From their side, they interview you to see if you’re the best fit for the vacancy. And from yours, you are looking to see if it’s the right job for you. This means that you may not be the only one a little anxious ahead of the interview. They’ll have prepared ahead of time, which means you need to do the same.
Make sure you know about the company as well as the exact job you are applying for. You can do this by looking online, asking people and rereading through the job advert. Ensure you can answer why you want this specific job at this particular company. You also need to know how your skills match their job needs. And, ideally, if possible, how your career goals align with the company’s ethos. Write down some questions that you would like to ask them about the job or the company too.
Go online and look up interview questions. Ask those around you what questions they’ve been asked or what they’d ask in an interview. Then make a list of them and work through it. Approach it in two steps. The first step is to read through and formulate an answer to them. Then, sit in front of a mirror. Ask yourself the questions and answer them while watching yourself. Although difficult, it’s a valuable exercise. It gives you a chance to view your own reactions. Then adjust your body language or facial expressions if need be. This is also where your coach or a friend could ask the interview questions and give feedback on your answers.
Read through the job advert and any correspondence to check if they request anything specifically for the interview. For example, certified copies of your qualifications. Then have everything ready by the day before. Always bring a working pen with you. Black ink is usually best. Work out what time you need to be there and how you’ll get there. Check ahead what you should wear for the interview. How smart or casual will typically depend on the type of job and position you’re interviewing for. If in doubt, opt for slightly smarter.
On the Day
Get enough sleep the night before your interview. So that you don’t feel light headed or hungry during the interview, try to eat something. Some people find that a shake or smoothie is easiest to have when they’re nervous. In case they don’t have any available, take some water along with you. Make sure your clothes are clean, have no visible holes in and you look the part. Keep to your planned timing, so that you don’t get stressed or have to rush. You want to look your best and also feel as relaxed as possible. And remember to take your notes or documents.
When you arrive, it’s important to be friendly and smile. Your interview starts the moment you walk through into the building. Often those interviewing you will ask a receptionist, or anyone you met while waiting, what their impression of you was. This gives them an idea of how you’ll potentially get along with other staff members.
Every application, even the unsuccessful ones, can be used to polish your application skills. Likewise, all interviews can help you build experience. While the process can be frustrating, or even a little depressing at times, don’t give up. Keep persevering, even though the companies could take months to get back to you. Apply for as many relevant jobs as you can and be tenacious as you exercise grit.
Helping Someone Prepare for an Interview
Coaches provide invaluable assistance when making choices, like when looking for a new job. If you are someone who enjoys helping others to succeed, then consider studying to be a coach. The South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP) has over 15-years of experience in running a range of coaching courses. Courses are accredited by the ICF and COMENSA. Enrol online today.